Bollywood comes to Carnegie Mellon

Bright lights, great music, energetic dancers, and an entertaining cast of actors lit up the Wiegand Gym on Feb. 23 with a Mellon Masala, a fun and diverse performance in the style of a Bollywood film. Produced by Mayur South Asian Student Alliance (Mayur-SASA), the show drew together all the elements of a typical Bollywood movie — song, dance, romance, and melodrama — and wove them together to create a great production. Bollywood is the Indian version of Hollywood, centered at Mumbai, the hub of entertainment in India which churns out more than 1000 movies a year.

“The whole aim of the show is to depict Bollywood,” said junior biomedical and chemical engineering major Kamya Somasundaram, co-producer of Mellon Masala. “The reason for us doing this is because we feel [that] Bollywood is a big symbol of South Asian culture. One of the things we’re trying to emphasize is the true South Asian identity itself.”

The main aim of the show is to reach out to people who do not know about South Asian culture and give them a chance to experience it in full color and flavor.

“We’re aiming for a cultural experience,” Somasundaram said. “[We want] to promote Bollywood and everything that relates to it.”

Co-producer and junior business administration major Sanya Gurnani agreed. “People should walk out knowing more about South Asian culture,” she said.

While reaching out to a diverse audience, the show’s cast is also diverse, consisting of many graduate and undergraduate students whose backgrounds do not include South Asia.

The plot centered on an Indian boy (Raj Kumar, played by sophomore business administration major Arpon Ray) and a Pakistani girl (Samiah Khan, played by business administration sophomore Sarah Sheikh) and their struggle to overcome all the obstacles that prevent them from uniting in love. The play was peppered with one-liners and hilarious performances by the lovers’ parents (played by Dhruv Mathur, a junior in information systems, and Nirvi Maru, a senior in social and decision sciences), but what really spiced up the show were the great dance performances intertwined between scenes.

The show opened with traditional Indian performances of dance and music: a jugalbandhi, which is a fusion of instrumental music played on different instuments (in this case, the mirdangam, the tabla and the dhol), and a Bharatanatyam recital, a traditional, South-Indian dance.

The play began with Raj and Samiah both leaving for college, respectively from Kolkata, India and New Jersey. Raj is excited about meeting hot girls, while Samiah is waiting to be reunited with her boyfriend Chandrashekar (played by Prashanth Swamy, a sophomore in biological sciences). But as the plot unfolds, a chance meeting in a computer cluster makes Raj fall madly in love with Samiah. Then Samiah discovers that her boyfriend is cheating on her and turns to Raj.

The show then took a sudden twist as the lovers’ parents arrive at college for family weekend and Samiah’s father announces that he has found her a fiance (played by CIT first-year Gary Verma). After much sorrow, Raj finally pulls it together and, accompanied by his mother and friends, sets out to win back Samiah. When they find her, it turns out that Raj’s mother and Samiah’s father were lovers in their youth. Reminded of their own unfinished love story, the parents concede, and the couple is finally reunited to live happily ever after.
The first half of the show features many dances but the one that stood out the most was the “Item Number” performed by sophomore public policy and management major Kamaria Hayden. The play also used projected videos of Samiah and Raj to flesh out the plot.

The show also featured a great vocal performance by an all-male a cappella group Deewane, which provided a soundtrack for Raj and Samiah’s first date at Lulu’s, shown in one of the projected videos. A break dance performance by student group broKen Glass was equally entertaining to watch.

Additional dance performances by South Asian dance troupe Tanah, Bhangra troupe Chak De, and the South Asian Seniors were well received along with solo music performances by computer science senior Kwasi Mensah and software engineering graduate student Sai Shankar. Apart from group song and dance, Mellon Masala had a fashion show with clothes designed by H&SS first-year Sonam Rajpal.

As a whole, the entire show was immensely entertaining, providing a window into the South Asian world. It was unique in the way it linked all of the different acts together to create a continuous performance. With bursts of color, music, and dance moves, Mayur-SASA provided the audience with a fun way to enjoy the different aspects of South Asian culture.